TV Interview: Rob Van Vuuren – Ludik, Or Hold Me Close, Swys Me More

July 30, 2022

By BRUCE DENNILL

Netflix’s first Afrikaans title series Ludik is set to burst onto screens globally on 26 August 2022. The racy, skop-skiet-en-donder six-part series features South African-born Hollywood actor Arnold Vosloo (Silvertone Siege) in the titular role of Daan Ludik alongside local talents Rob Van Vuuren (Swys De Villiers), Diaan Lawrenson (Anet Ludik) and Zane Meas (Brigadier Davies). The series revolves around Ludik, who appears to be a salt of the earth guy, styling himself as a wholesome family man running a successful furniture business. However, behind the veneer of respectability,  Ludik is steeped in the underworld that sees him crossing paths with mobsters and murderers. With his family in turmoil, jail time on the horizon and death imminent, Ludik must rely on both his old and new allies to prevail and save his everything. Van Vuuren talks about his passion for and approach to acting.

 

Was there a single moment when you first wanted to be a film or television performer (or writer, or producer, etc) – a specific movie or show in a particular context? What was it that caught your attention?

Yes! It was Steven Spielberg’s The Goonies! Right at the beginning of the movie there is this car chase which sweeps past a milkshake store or something. Inside the store, a hilarious chubby kid – Chunk – squishes his milkshake up against the window in excitement as he watches the car chase and in this great close-up he says: “Holy sh*t!” Those two words changed my life. I knew right then and there that I wanted to be Chunk.

 

Do you prefer doing as few takes as possible or as many as are necessary? Both choices have their pros and cons?

I’m happy either way. I love it when the production is in flow and moving at pace and you have to be on your toes but I also love the opportunity to play, dig a little deeper or find something else. I try to put my trust in the director as far as knowing when we’ve got it is concerned. Sometimes I’ll know I can do better and I’ll ask for another one but I try to curb my tendency to obsess and overthink it, so generally speaking if the directors are happy, I’m happy.

 

Getting into character: what are the most helpful outside factors for you in this process (from make-up or costumes to director’s notes)?

It varies from project to project what the key into a character can be, but it’s always a combination of all the factors to really bring it to life. Sometimes the character just jumps off the page fully formed in my head, sometimes a director will lead me there, or sometimes it’s a particular piece of music that locks me in. Music as an emotional entry point was a massive help for me on Ludik, when it came to hitting all the marks on Swys’ emotional rollercoaster of a storyline. Sometimes it’s a pair of shoes, sometimes it’s in the way they walk. I think the trick for me is to not get stuck in any one way of getting there and allow the space for the character to come to me in the way that they want to.

 

In such strongly visual mediums, how aware are you of needing to limit what you say or do in order to let the combination of everything in the frame (the location, the lighting, the costumes, your co-stars) be as effective as possible?

My background is in the theatre and a lot of my work was characterised by high-energy, over-the-top performances and it was initially quite an adjustment realising just how little you have to do on camera. I feel like I’ve reached a place now where I really understand and love the medium. I’m genuinely in love with this delicate dance between you and the camera and your co-stars and the location and the lighting and the scope of the narrative all taking place frame by frame.

 

The pandemic created enormous challenges at every level in the film and television industries, but there was and is still fantastic work being created. What, or who, are the brightest lights in terms of work you have done recently or films or shows you are watching at the moment?

Weirdly enough, the pandemic was good for my film career. My time pre-Covid was usually mostly tied up in live stage work and I was often unavailable for film projects if they came up. When the lockdown happened the film industry was the first in the sector to adjust to the protocols while live theatre only went to full capacity, like, yesterday. So suddenly all my focus was on film auditions and I was lucky enough to land a few great roles in a few great projects! Shout out to The Umbrella Men, Slumber Party Massacre, Lincoln, Runs In The Family and ,of course, Ludik!

 

As a performer (or writer, or producer, etc) – not just as a fan – what makes you excited about the above?

I love how South Africa is taking its place on the global film stage. Umbrella Men is a  uniquely South African story that has been selected for the Toronto International Film Festival. Slumber Party Massacre is an ‘American’ film shot entirely with a South African cast and crew (except for our amazing Canadian director Danishka Esterhazy) and which is playing very successfully to an international horror audience. Lincoln was shot for the History Channel and I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of a South African team bringing not only Lincoln’s but Theodore Roosevelt and Ulysses Grant’s lives to the screen. Ludik, our first Afrikaans original, is dropping on Netflix worldwide and has been dubbed into five different languages! We are rising!

 

Please unpack your other current projects?

I’m currently touring my stand-up show Still Standing and will hopefully be filming that as a special soon. I’m also busy directing for the theatre. Mike van Graan’s New Abnormal and Sophie Joan’s  Île open in Cape Town in August. I’m also excited for the release of Gabe Gabriel’s Runs In The Family. I loved this script and adored my character – a career con man with a deliciously sleazy wardrobe. I was also thrilled to be reunited with one of our Ludik directors, Ian Gabriel, and Ludik co-star, the incredible Diaan Lawrenson.

 

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